Apologies for the delay in writing again, but a topical issue made me think about the relationship of science with truth.
The BBC has been reporting that a certain oil company has been offering contracts to academics to help with the clean up in the Gulf of Mexico. The BBC reports the ‘head of the American Association of University Professors has accused BP of trying to "buy" the best scientists and academics to help it contest litigation after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.’
Whatever is going on, the issue of the unbiased nature of science is not one that will go away or avoid controversy.
I remember a debate in the IWC when WDCS and others pointed out that allowing the scientists on whaling surveys to carry out their work unsupervised could lead to many more whales dying - we were shouted down. And yet, countries insist on having inspectors on board a whaling vessel incase one more whale is killed than given in a quota, - but the fact that scientists could bias their sightings just slightly and that this could lead to hundreds more whales been counted, and so leading to higher quotas in the first place, seems to be out of bounds as a topic of debate.
Of course I would suggest that the majority of people who pursue science as a career set out intending to be good scientists, that only want to deal with the facts and not the politics of the situation - but there have always been those who are willing to tow the political and funding line.
In Japan there are very few cetacean jobs outside of the Government departments and fisheries agencies. In Norway the group of scientists who originally agreed with the IWC scientists who were expressing concerns about the decline in NE Atlantic minkes in the 1980s were quickly replaced by the current scientists who have gone on to deliver every politically requested quota.
Maybe it’s all legit, but one has to question it a little I would suggest.
So scientists are like any other human beings, subject to the same pressures and the same temptations. Let’s not forget that and let’s not put them on a pedestal that ignores the pressures that are on them. It seems that someone may always be willing to exploit the weakest of us and its important that we champion those scientists who are willing to stand up to such pressures and tell us the truth, even if we don't always like what they say.